During this budget cycle we’ve talked a lot about affordability and the challenges of cost escalations over a number of daily needs for all individuals and families. Over the past year I’ve heard from many constituents sharing their stories of affordability, and what becomes clear hearing the many different stories of ward 11 residents, is that affordability is more than property taxes.
This budget invests in our city services and public amenities (libraries, recreation, pathways, parks) in response to the most common requests from residents to tackle the major challenges and opportunities facing Calgarians.
The investments brought forward were part of monthly sessions of refinements over the course of a year, where options were presented to Council for consideration. They advanced priorities brought forward by councillors (both individually and collectively) and Administration based on their knowledge of service needs and most importantly, direct citizen feedback. The resulting investments were those which received the most support from Council and Administration.
I am proud to support this budget based on the communication my office has received from residents. The most frequent concern we hear from all communities are about improvements to pedestrian safety. Data shows that those who live close to services and amenities incur less costs, especially transit and active transportation. There are multiple line items in this budget to improve active mobility and make it more affordable for Calgarians to get around including:
We’ve also clearly heard the need for better transit safety. There is a $15 million new investment ensuring more Peace Officers on transit for quicker service call response. This also comes with funding for social-service agencies to work alongside Peace Officers to provide support and access to services for vulnerable persons.
Other investments included in this budget help Calgarians with low-income, including $10 million in funding for emergency support for vulnerable Calgarians. This funding will be allocated to non-profit service providers to provide basic needs funds for those requiring relief supports.
The budget includes over $75 million for housing, with a particular focus on creating and delivery more affordable housing. This will add more housing to our city in the short and long term to provide much needed relief for Calgarians.
As we continue to evolve the budget process, we will continue to look for both savings and investments to deliver a spectrum of quality services for Calgarians. As always, I’m committed to a long term vision for Calgary and making smart investments that build on our current successes.
The budget adjustment package for 2024 was released publicly today November 7, 2023. The investments put forward are a direct result of listening to Calgarians and asking us, collectively, to invest in a secure and safe future.
In 2023, I championed free transit for youth under 12. Due to overwhelming success and support of Calgarians, transit would like to make this permanent and I’m very supportive of this change. All transit fare increases are also paused in this budget.
The presentation from administration outlines the budget, the factors in the decisions before us, and a breakdown of the recommended tax increase resulting from previously approved direction, tax shift, and new investments (page 27). The presentation also benchmarks the City against other jurisdictions, especially with regards to the tax ratio. In many ways, Calgary is a leader, remaining one of the lowest taxed jurisdictions both provincially and nationally. However, our competitive edge with regards to business property tax is quickly declining. A course correction has been recommended for a second year in a row. It is good policy and governance to use this data to support the shift even knowing the costs to non-residential rate payers.
As always, I encourage you to read through the budget and send in your comments. You may also make a public submission to council or apply to speak.